feeding laying hens

sargent spurs

8 Years
Aug 24, 2011
I am curious to know how other people with laying hens feed thier flock. Do you feed them a rationed amount or free choice all they will eat, once a day or more than once, strictly a laying hen mix or do you supplement with anything at all. Also, it would be helpful to know if the hens are free range or not and how that affects how much grain fed.

Just curious as I have heard lots of mixed opinions from around here.
My chickens free range during the day, and then they're locked up at night. During the winter, they free range less, because of the weather. All year long, my feeders are always full of layer feed, so they can eat it as they please. About once a week, I throw down some crushed oyster shell. Just before dusk, I throw down some scratch grains into their run, so they will come in and I can lock the doors for the night.

They do eat ALOT less in the summertime. Right now, they eat ALOT more, since it's winter here in Ohio.
I ration my feed and also free range during the day. I used to keep the feeders full but started to notice rats, so now I limit it and that limits the rats. Since I'm here in Florida my hens do not have to be cooped up all the time.
I am in Central Fl, near Ocala. I do not free range, they have access to a large run ( in process if making an even larger run ). Food is available 24/7 in the coop, water is available in the run and the coop. we have many hawks in the area thus the reason for not free rangeing. They get treats twice a day and anything they can find in the run.
I portion feed. I know that sounds like ration feeding, which it is, but sometimes folks assume this is somehow limiting the feed, which isn't really true. I just prefer their feed troughs are absolutely empty when they go to roost at night. This takes experience and knowledge of your flock. It requires taking into account the richness or barren nature of the range, depending on time of year. It also takes into account whether the temperature require the birds to produce more body heat. With time, it is far more efficient, results in great consistent laying and prevents waste and rodent feeding.
My backyard flocks have gone thru a few different feeding programs thru the years. The time when I first started with my own hens and switched them all to a straight diet of wheat and free ranging, stands out in my mind. They promptly stopped laying

What I have mostly done is run them thru the starter-grower-layer cycle. In recent years, I stopped with starter-grower (Flock Raiser) and just set out oyster shells. They have these feeds, free choice.

Most of the time, there were several hours they could free range during the day. More recently, I have used a moveable pen to allow them out on the grass.

Much of their diet that isn't commercial feed is from either the kitchen or the garden. I'm fairly sure that I've never had more than 12 chickens and there have been large gardens that could completely overwhelm them with veggies. I try not to do that. What I decided to do was to keep a scale near the bag and get some idea of how much feed they are eating. It was really quite simple
, filling the feeder every other day or so and keeping in mind the number of birds that have been eating from it. What I was shooting at was a consistent 1/4 pound of feed for each hen.

If they weren't eating 1/4 pound, I will back off on the "extras." If they were eating more, and these are Australorps & Barred Rocks so they can eat more
, I would give them extra from the kitchen or garden.

Certainly, I could feed cheaper but I'm not keeping them just for their or my entertainment
. I am expecting eggs and they will only lay with adequate protein and other nutrients in their diet.

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I have 6 Rhode Island Reds, hatched December 4. They will be laying hens for our family and some friends. My question is when do they grow out of the grow feed and into regular feed? Do I move directly to laying mash or something else? Veggie table scraps okay now or should we wait? Thanks for your feedback. Jingle
jingle, there are two approaches, basically. You might switch them from "starter" to grower at 10 weeks, give or take. Some feed stores only sell a combination "starter/grower". Either way is just fine, Just keep them on it until you see eggs appear. No need to make this more complicated. This isn't the rocket science.
The table scraps are OK, just don't over do it, and provide them some chick grit if you do feed scraps.

Once the eggs start appearing, the layer mash is good because it has the extra calcium ground right into it. That high calcium, however, is potentially harmful to a growing, young pullet. There is zero, zip, nada, no reason to feed it before the first eggs appear.
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